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Why Quickbase App-building is Taking Off at Southwest Airlines

Written By: Jessica Hawley
October 25, 2017
5 min read

…and how Jana Baker is helping colleagues bring efficiency to new heights with no-code app building.

Jana Baker is an analyst at Southwest Airlines. She’s also a seasoned Quickbase power builder—and one of the company’s “go to” resources for colleagues who want to use the platform to solve on-the-job challenges for themselves or their teams.

Helping new developers get their start is just one of the ways that Southwest’s community of Quickbase builders are making a big difference for their company. To date, over 700 Quickbase apps have been built for a wide range of use cases across departments from marketing and finance to business operations and human resources.

The value of an experienced guide

Jana’s own journey as a Quickbase builder began when she transferred to the company’s Quality Management Office five years ago. Although she was experienced in spreadsheets and database administration, she had never built an app. That soon changed when she took on one of her first assignments. A tool to track test cases was needed, and with a successful track record behind it, management wanted her to use Quickbase to create it.

“I had no idea what Quickbase was at the time, but I knew a colleague who did from our Technology department,” she explains. “He walked me through the basics, and with his help, it wasn’t long before I was visualizing how I was going to build my app.”

Jana described her transition to Quickbase as a straightforward experience, made easier by her knowledge of Microsoft Access and Excel.

“The tools are very similar in how they behave, so once I learned how I could apply my existing skills to Quickbase it was a fairly easy learning curve,” says Jana.

Technology department approved

Like all Quickbase builders before her, Jana had to fill out an application with Southwest’s Technology department to become a Quickbase app administrator.

“The department within Technology that governs Quickbase makes the decisions about who can become a Quickbase administrator, what they will be building, and where,” relays Jana. “They don’t hand out that permission lightly. You have to have a good use case to get approval to move forward.”

And although this department doesn’t monitor how Quickbase apps are built, they do oversee usage. If, for example, an app hasn’t been used in six months, an email will be sent to inquire. If it is no longer needed, the app is taken down and roles and permissions for the administrator and users are deleted.

“They govern what’s out there to make sure that there is no wasted space and that we’re using our resources efficiently,” explains Jana.

Solving big challenges together

One of the bigger challenges Jana addressed with Quickbase was the creation of an app called “Project Inventory”. Its purpose was to track all active projects throughout the organization, including those involving technical, business operations, and maintenance. This was one of Jana’s largest builds and it required pulling together disparate spreadsheets, financial data, and other information.

She relied on her experience and the aid of other power builders at the company to help her create the best app for the job, and it was a success. Due to this collaboration, the Project Inventory application has merged with an even more robust app called the “Portfolio Management Application (PMA)”. Today, all projects are housed in one location so that stakeholders can oversee projects and provide answers on status, dependencies, risks, deadlines, and more.

“What Quickbase does best is it enables you to bring multiple sources together as one,” Jana explains. “And from there you can query and dynamically create reports, charts, graphs—do almost anything. It’s like a database on steroids,” she says with a laugh.

Lessons learned and shared

When asked what words of wisdom she might have for new Quickbase app builders facing first projects, she gives the following advice:

“When you first start building expect to make a few wrong turns, and that’s okay. You won’t necessarily know how to build relationships in the most concise way yet, but you will get better and more efficient each time you build.”

She also recommends that companies new to Quickbase set up data governance parameters early in the game, such as keeping field names consistent across all apps as they are built.

“If you have that level of consistency, it makes it that much easier to connect and share data with any of them, no matter how many you have across the organization,” explains Jana.

She also feels that working with other builders who have experience creating Quickbase applications is one of the best ways to learn something new or quickly get advice if you find yourself stuck.

“It’s definitely an advantage to have someone there to show you how to do something, especially when the deliverable is expected yesterday,” she says. “That’s why we created a distribution list of Quickbase app builders at Southwest. Anyone can join, and if one of us runs into a problem we can e-mail the group and quickly find someone who can help.”

Expanding the community

The distribution list is not the only way that Quickbase builders throughout Southwest are called to action. Word-of-mouth is another way, and that’s leading to adoption in new areas.

“Corporate Delivery & Technology works with business partners all the time, and I have done projects for multiple departments,” says Jana. “They might be sitting with a partner and my name comes up as someone who can help them develop a Quickbase app for their need.”

The E-Pass project was such a scenario. Jana’s name was given to a senior manager in Finance who needed help building an app related to employee travel. Since then, he too has become a Quickbase advocate with his own team of Quickbase developers.

“We all now attend the Quickbase EMPOWER event together,” she says.

Paying it forward

The ability to make a positive and meaningful difference for colleagues throughout Southwest not only brings greater visibility to Jana’s standing as a solutions innovator, but also gives her recognition for a job well done.

“Being a Quickbase power builder has given me the opportunity to work with and help people all over the company, and the exposure definitely helps with career building too,” says Jana.

Want to make a bigger impact with Quickbase? Download our “Start the Movement” step-by-step guide!

Written By: Jessica Hawley
Jessica Hawley is a marketing manager at Quickbase, focused on SEO, content and social media.