Airtable, the popular workplace tool that helps teams manage and track their projects from concept to completion, is planning its next big step. The company today announced the launch of its new Airtable Connected Apps Platforma suite of features designed to help employees connect, communicate, and share complex data across departments, especially at larger companies.
Think of it this way: Departments within a large workplace are often so isolated and autonomous that they operate almost as completely separate entities, and this is especially true in today’s world of multinational conglomerates, mega-mergers, and many-tentacled parent companies. If you remember that old idiom about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, you can get an idea of the problem Airtable is trying to solve here. While the core project management platform has long allowed users to create their own apps, this latest incarnation, which will be rolled out gradually over the next year, will enable team leaders to scale those apps across organizations. Early next year, the platform will also include a two-way sync feature that will enable real-time updating of datasets across a company’s apps.
“What we have realized is that not only can people create individual apps, but there is now an even greater need, especially within larger organizations, to coordinate all the different apps,” said Airtable CEO Howie Liu. londonbusinessblog.com. “If you’re a 10-person company, you can work pretty efficiently by just tapping each other on the shoulder. But what we’ve found – and frankly, what I didn’t understand when I founded the company – is that in an increasingly large company. . . they actually need apps that connect with each other and form such an ecosystem that all runs on shared data.”
For Airtable, whose user base includes Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, IBM, LVMH and Nike, the move is a way to further embed its services into the daily workflows of its largest paying customers. Part of the trick to deciding how and when to evolve, Liu says, is closely observing how people use Airtable as a troubleshooting tool, then launching features to meet those needs. As an example, Liu cited Netflix, one of more than 300,000 organizations using Airtable. The streaming giant needs seamless ways to coordinate between its many moving parts such as production, post-production, marketing, legal, and every other department under its roof. “We already offer the tool to do that with one-way sync, and now we’re offering two-way sync, allowing you to have an even more powerful connection between those different apps.”
Liu calls the latest Airtable upgrade “the biggest single evolution we’ve made.” In addition to connected apps and two-way sync, it will feature a revamped, customizable home screen, which will be available to Airtable enterprise customers today and roll out to everyone else early next year.
Like many workplace software companies, Airtable took advantage during the early phase of the pandemic as offices moved to remote and hybrid models. The San Francisco-based company was valued at $11 billion late last year, more than ten times what it was three years earlier. But it’s now competing in an increasingly crowded marketplace, with platforms like Asana, Monday.com, Clickup, and others all vying for the preferred project management tool for businesses large and small.
While the tech sector has cooled off from its early pandemic highs — stocks in publicly traded Mandy.com are down more than 67% since early 2022 — the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market is expected to continue growing toward the end of the year. the decade, to $702.19 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.
That means Airtable and its competitors need to be even more focused on where they can differentiate themselves — something Liu seems to acknowledge when describing the company’s increased focus on larger companies.
“I think we’ve tried to be everything to everyone,” he says. “From a product roadmap standpoint, it’s really hard to both support the small use cases for small businesses and at the same time try to serve these larger customers who are building out multi-departmental workflows. This is the first time we’ve truly acknowledged, ‘Hey, we need to go all in on this North Star of building connected apps for the enterprise.’”