Developer Spotlight: Wiktor & Lewis, Developers at Cobry
Early on in the Cobry journey we've noticed that Google Apps Script is a superpower and allowed us to glue services together for the organizations that we service. [Music] Hey everybody, welcome to another Google Workspace Developer Spotlight. This time in the spotlight we've got Cobry from Scotland, United Kingdom and joining us today are Wiktor Jurek and Lewis Conroy. Hey gentlemen, how you doing? Very well! How are you Charles? Great, great, great !
So real quick guys let us know a little bit about Cobry and what it is each of you do. Cobry is a Google Cloud partner. We cover Google Workspace and also data analytics on GCP. I'm the development lead, so I kind of oversee all the architectural programming, and development things that go on both internally at Cobry and also for our clients. So kind of virtually alongside me below, left, right we've got Lewis. He's one of our Cloud Architects and the reason we've brought him on today is because he's an expert in Google Chat apps. Let's jump right into it about
Cobry! I think it's pretty awesome, I love some of the work you're doing which is why we asked you to join us in the spotlight. One of the things I really love is your tagline "Bringing the cloud down to earth". I think that's awesome. What is your philosophy around Google Workspace and in building projects with it, and what are some of the projects that you do for customers? "Bringing the cloud down to earth" is a tagline that we took on back when Cobry started back in day, I think it was 2013, and that was purely because IT departments and IT centers were usually seen as a cost center within a business. Usually organizations use fluffy language to sell their products and things like that but what Google Workspace allowed us to do as Cobry is really bring it down to earth and make it really easy to explain to IT organizations within organizations and businesses. IT doesn't have to be complex and complicated. It can be simple, it can be usable,
it can be secure. Kind of bringing that cloud down to earth. And what that allowed us to do is, it allowed us to go into businesses and talk about the cloud in a one-on-one perspective of business leaders and organizations, and make it really simple to understand and digest. In terms of Google Apps Script and Google Workspace: the one thing that Google Apps Script done for us as a business it has helped us glue these services together that Google Workspace provides. Wo Google Workspace is amazing in terms of the products and services that it offers but sometimes organizations just need something custom, something that maybe isn't offered by default in the package. So early on in the Cobry journey, from when it started to now, we've noticed that Google Apps Script is a superpower and allowed us to glue services together for the organizations that we service. So if there's maybe something that is a little
custom, or a little tweak that needs to be made to an application, or maybe we want to connect an application that's from a third party into Google Workspace we can do all of that using Google Apps Script. And hence the kind of development part of Cobry was born. It all started with Google Apps Script and an idea in saying that "Hey, we can actually solve this problem for a client!" Not by going out and buying a new tool or not bringing in a huge development team and and racking up bills on different other cloud services. But actually we can link things together using Google Apps Script fast and easily as well. You just mentioned these custom solutions for your customers that you would build. Is there any specific project or solution that comes
to mind like, I don't know, the coolest, or the most challenging, or, I don't know, maybe the weirdest? So in terms of solutions and projects that we've done with our customers this one's kind of boring but it comes up all the time. And so there's there's a lot of times where organizations, for example, need a way to update data in a third party system. And what they usually do is they bring in a custom CRM solution or a custom ERP. The most amazing thing about Apps Script
and kind of the projects I get most passionate about is actually building full services, such as a custom CRM, on top of pure Google, pure Google Workspace without any external services, without any third-party applications. It's just pure Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, with a bit of Apps Script, a bit of Gmail. And you can actually build a full CRM system just using those four tools. Of course bringing in other Google Workspace services along the way. So although saying we've built custom CRMs and things like that maybe a more of a boring answer it's one that's really, really useful for us to demonstrate because it really demonstrates the power of a Workspace as a platform and I really really love that Workspace is a platform because it gives organizations the idea that once we have Workspace all that is, is a foundation to actually building something that's a lot more complex and more robust. So although it might not be the flashy answer that you might have
asked for I think is the one that kind of opens up the most doors in terms of organizations minds as to what is actually possible. I think it's a great question because it proves that for a lot of customers who use Google Workspace it kind of like makes other tools unnecessary. So you can save money by just using Google Workspace and having a partner like Cobry build your custom solutions based upon that. So I love the answer! Yeah, that was a great answer. I love the Workspace as a platform. That's something we've been saying and I'm glad to hear somebody else say it back at us. So we've been saying that for a while now: Workspace is a platform. I think we've got receipts about saying that back in 2014. So I'd love to say that we were the first and I'd
love to be proven otherwise. So one of the things that caught our collective eye is that Cobry has created a Chat app and your chat app is called "Updateli for workspace". What was the impetus behind that, and can you give us a story behind what it does, and a little insights there? The reason that we wanted Updateli was actually because Cobry was growing. So when Cobry started it was only several people and communication between several people is actually quite easy. You can get together in a group and a room and get excited about some of the things that you're working on. And one of
the key things within Cobry is knowing all about Google Workspace. So Google Workspace updates are pivotal pieces of information that help us run our business. Now what happens when you bring more and more and more people on? Well, what happens is that little web of connections and communications starts to kind of fall apart. It's much easier to communicate within a group of seven than it is to communicate within a group of 20, 30, 40. Wo we had to think of a better way of us communicating
together around Google Workspace updates. So Google Chat, a lovely product made by Google again, allowed us to bring in these Google Workspace updates and create threads to discuss and talk about all these Workspace updates, and maybe tag in clients that think that update might be might be useful for them, and things like that. Now that was a bit of a manual process. Someone actually went on the Google Workspace updates blog and they copied and pasted the update in and then that notified everyone and that was good. But that took up time and what happens when things take up time? "e try to automate them. So I rounded up the dev team and I said: "Hey, how can we make this easier for everyone within Cobry?". And very quickly we said Apps Script is our solution here! So what
we've done is we made a very small App Script based on again someone else's GitHub project. It was good, it was running really well and what it done was took those Workspace updates off of the blog and just dropped them right into our Google Chat space so we could discuss these updates just as they came in. It was really, really powerful and we're still using it to this day. Now what happened then is Lewis joined us. Again sitting virtually alongside me. And we said: "Hey, we work with Google
organizations worldwide that would totally love to have this within their organization!". Because you know, when we when we talk to organizations they want to know what updates are coming out that suit them right. So we say: "Okay, let's make this public!". How are we going to do it? "e're going to try make this a bit more scalable, a bit more usable. So we migrated off of Apps Script onto the Google
Cloud platform and Lewis was the the main brains behind that. I guess it was really just sort of an internal initiative and then it sort of evolved into something that we thought could bring value to other people. And so we got together and using the tools that workspace and GCP provided we were able to bring it to life and share it with the world. Before we move on, where can folks sign up for Updateli?
Is it freely available or is there a fee? Tell us a little bit of background. I think is a great tool by the way. Where could folks find one? Updateli is on the Google Workspace Marketplace. So if you're in Google Chat you just go into the the plus icon. It might have changed by the time you're watching now, but you add a bot, you type in "Updateli", and you'll be able to locally install it onto your space directly within the Google Workspace platform. There's no fees, it's
completely free. All we want to do as Cobry is help other organizations get the most out of the Google Cloud technology. So we made it free and available to everyone worldwide. We actually have a lot of schools using it, we have a lot of non-profits using it, we have a lot of organizations worldwide using it. And it's only been out for a couple of months so we're really, really happy to see the adoption of the application basically without any marketing. So it's
very clear for us that people are finding value out of it. While we're on the topic of Chat apps, Cobry seems to be innovating a lot around them by creating custom Chat apps for your customers. What's behind the momentum? Why have you selected to build on Chat and what are the problems that you're trying to solve by building on Chat that helps your customers out. We come across three main problems when it comes to organizations using applications or systems.
One of them is application blowout and that's kind of maybe a Cobry term. What we mean by that is organizations that say: "Oh, we need to solve this problem, we need to solve this problem, we need to solve this problem." And then you have three separate applications solving three separate problems. That's great because those problems are solved. But what ends up happening is when you have too many applications things get really confusing, and notifications everywhere. You have to access these applications across multiple different websites, multiple different SAAS platforms. It gets confusing for end users, you introduce friction into your organization, and
that friction is a lead problem of just employees being engaged. The way Chat apps fix that problem is by bringing those notifications down into a centralized location where the user is. And that's really important: where the user is. If you're an organization on Google Workspace you will be using Gmail, you will be using Google Chat. So when you have a notification center that sits
within Google Chat what that allows you to do is that allows you to have a centralized notification store. So your employees don't get bogged down by going to tens of different platforms to stay updated on the work that they're doing which is really, really powerful. The second kind of pain that we usually see in organizations is that love using chat apps is information access. We're talking about FAQs, documentation, how do I do this. And actually who kind of pioneered this is Discord. When gamers in the Discord channels usually created bots within there because a lot of
people ask the same questions: "Hey, how do I do this within the game? How do I do that within the game? How do I engage with this community?". And a lot of people made bots to answer those simple questions. And what we find is that kind of methodology is trickling over through into Google Chat and people are creating Chat bots that help people or bring information to the people. Whether that is an FAQ, documentation, or things like that. And kind of the third use case or the third problem that Chat apps solve is supplementing data into systems. So again, this kind of ties into the application blowout and
bringing the the application to where the user is. But not from a notification perspective but from a data entry perspective. So a lot of organizations see an application as a back end and a front end. Usually that front end is a website that someone accesses or a locally installed app. But what we
can do, is we can actually create kind of like a second front end to an application, that being through Google Chat. So maybe the most common patterns of data entry within an application you can actually do that through a Google chat app. And again, that just increases the plane in which a user can access these applications. And again it brings those applications to the user, especially with the most common use cases. So those are the three kind of most important ones: it's the
notification overload, the information access, and number three is that data entry piece as well. Usually we feel like we can bucket Chat apps into one of those three categories. I was wondering Wiktor, what you've just described is actually something that any Google Workspace customer will want. Is this something that customers know of? So do you have like loads of customers lining up all waiting for you to create a Google custom Chat app? Or how does this usually work? This is very much an education piece. So we have account managers with our customers and our client base that directly go to those accounts and those organizations with that sort of chat. Pardon the pun. And they say: "Hey, Cobry can build this for you!". And very often our conversion rate is very high in saying actually let's talk a little bit more about Chat apps. How can we bring our users
closer to the work that they're doing? And that starts a conversation and that maybe starts a development journey. But the kind of second educational piece is the kind of marketing piece. A lot of organizations buy Google Workspace and still don't use all of its features and never mind custom developed Chat apps. So it's on us as partners to make sure that our organizations around the world using Google Workspace A) get the most out of the tools they're already buying and B) know ways that they can extend on those tools through custom applications such as Chat using Apps Script or other means. So it's very much educational piece for our current customers. We go to them directly and they love us, we love them and they're usually very receptive to our conversation around this. But secondly there's millions of organizations that we don't have direct access to that we just have to educate through other means. Okay, so I've noticed on your website you've got a great post called: "How to over engineer a chatbot on GCP". In the post you cover Chat apps, how they
evolve through the development process, how they grow, how you can scale them to the right fit. Can either one of you jump in, perhaps Lewis. Tell us about your approach on building Chat Apps and how you see them evolve. Kind of the support behind that article. For the particular Chat app that this blog talks about, that sort of started as an internal initiative where people had this idea for a Chat app but they didn't really know exactly how to go about it. So it took some
sort of research into figuring out exactly where are we going to start with this thing. Obviously, you've been talking about low code and pro code solutions with AppSheet and Apps Script. So you know there's a bit of play to decide where you're going to start with this idea. And so obviously with Cobry we've got really talented development team. So we said: "Okay, let's do an App Script!". So we had the sort of internal Chat built-in Apps Script that was just sort of used internally within Cobry. After a while we sort of realized: "You know this thing is actually pretty
useful!". We were using it all the time and we're getting really, really um interesting discussions coming up on these Chat threads. And we said, you know maybe other people can start to use this. But there's no way that we could keep it in Apps Script! Apps Script is very much a sort of bespoke type of thing and when you start to get too many people to try to use this thing it's just sort of not scalable enough. So we took that idea, lifted it up to GCP and we built it out of Cloud Functions essentially and a Firestore and shipped out into the world. It was a pretty
minimal implementation really, you know, that sort of evolution from Apps Script to GCP can be quite neat and tidy due to the nice APIs that you get with Workspace line up very well with the code libraries that you get for programming languages like node.js, and things like that. So this sort of evolution from an idea to: Well, is it going to be Apps Script? Is it going to be AppSheet? Maybe we go straight to GCP. "e landed on Apps Script and then the evolution, as we realized that okay we're gonna have a lot of people using this thing, we were able to evolve that into Cloud functions on GCP. So I have a question for you Lewis on that. You mentioned at a certain point Apps Script may not hold its weight. Do you have a good sense on when you would iterate with Apps
Script? Like this project we need to see so many users, actually feeling that this is a good thing. We can kind of prove that concept out before we invest doing it fully in GCP. Or is your inkling now to say maybe we start more projects just on the GCP side because we think we've got the concept proved out and we just want to do it one time. It's kind of a case of intuition really. You can tell when you come up with an idea you can kind of tell what its purpose in life is going to be. Whether it's going to be applicable to a lot of people or not. So for instance if it's just a sort of internal app and you're only going to use it in your company and your company's not that big then you'll get away with Apps Script just fine. But if you start to realize that this app has potential and you think that other people might be able to use it and you think that you're gonna have to scale it then it's a good idea to put it in GCP. But definitely Apps Script has its place.
There are a lot of apps that will happily live in Apps Script for their whole life and they'll get by just fine. But there are certain cases where an app might have potential to grow or might have a potential to be used by a lot of people and it's just having the intuition to figure out early on whether you think that'll be the case or not. But again, as I said, it's not even too difficult to move from Apps Script to GCP because a lot of the sort of code that you write lines up really nicely on both environments. Now that makes sense and I think, obviously, since you guys have been doing it for a while you have an expertise and you've got a, you know, litmus test it where "Okay, yeah, this feels right." If somebody wants to try to build their own Chat App,
I mean, obviously they can call you guys and bring you in and have you guys help them. But if they want to start their own journey is there any best tips, guidance, places you tell them to look, you know best practices you learned the hard way? Anything you could tell them to help them kind of uplift and do this on their own? Once you've sort of had this idea I definitely recommend sort of peer reviewing it with someone. Saying: "Listen, I had this idea. "hat do you think"? Brainstorming a little bit, bring it up a little bit from a simple idea into a sort of viable decision. And then it's a case of looking at your team, looking at your skills to determine where this idea is going to start. You know AppSheet has a brilliant Chat app functionality. It's just coming. So it might be a good idea to start there with this idea where
you don't need to write any code at all. It's completely no code. If that's the sort of skill set that your team has then that's a great place to start. But if you've got some coding experience, and you've got some teammates that know how to use Apps Script and read documentation, stuff like that, then you might end up with a much nicer solution in Apps Script.
So it's really just sort of taking a step back before you dive in and just determine: okay, who's going to work on this app? What's it going to do? And who's going to use it? And then you'll be able to get a really nice picture of what the solution is going to look like and how it's going to happen. I think succinctly you could just put it into three things: so take inventory of your skill. Louis mentioned that. So have I got developers? Have I got people eager to take this into production? Take advantage of your skill and kind of align that with how far you think you can take this application. The second point is take inventory of the the quotas and limitations of each system that you're trying to use. So if I'm trying to build a routing app maybe I've got delivery drivers and they need to find the most optimal route to get between our warehouses. Is it going to be 10 drivers using it 10 times a day or is it going
to be hundreds of drivers using it hundreds of time times a day. Well, then you're going to have to want to look up the Google Maps API to see how many times you can ping a route search. If it's ten thousand times you're gonna go away over your quota if you're doing it for hundreds of drivers, right. So then you might want to say: Actually we don't want to be using Apps Script for that. And thirdly, take advantage of how far you think this app is going to go.
So am I going to be using this internally only or would you actually kind of sit down and think: Well, actually if I'm making a routing system for my driver who's to say that I can't sell this to my competitors drivers, or or the world? And that's when you've got to think of think big and think scalability in mind. But don't let that kind of dissuade you from failing fast. Updateli was born on a very, very simple, very crude if I can say Google App Script and it worked really well and and we'd be totally happy taking that all the way to the end of its life. But it's only when we decided to say: "Hey, actually this needs to go global!" we made the decision to migrate. And as Lewis said, we kind of know how to migrate and we can do it very
well. Google makes it quite easy for us. We have defined migration paths from Apps Scripts to GCP so we can make that happen. Of course it is a cost, of course it does take time. But if that kind of pain of change is lesser than the pain of same, then you just got to bite the bullet and do it. And we can do it really well. You've mentioned first of all Workspace is a platform and I love that. You've also alluded to AppSheets specific point in that platform. And Louis you
mentioned that there's a new Chat app feature in there which is super neat, right. Actually it's not released yet but it's been previewed and you can check it out where you can build Chat apps using AppSheet projects which is super neat. So it kind of democratizes the building of Chat apps for anybody. I'd love to know from where you guys sit as experts on building on the platform: where does AppSheet fit in? How do you position it with customers? "hat's the discussions you're having around it? When do you use it and frankly when do you say we wouldn't consider it? I'd love to get that expert opinion. The main thing that we see when it comes to proposing AppSheet to
our customers and then our marketing and our sales is that AppSheets a wonderful platform. For that number one point, having the programming skills, organizations that don't have those programming skills anyone and literally anyone that can, you know, point a mouse and type on their keyboard, can create an app using AppSheet. And the wonderful thing about that is once you're on an AppSheet license you can make as many apps as you'd like. The way we like to position it is it's a wonderful platform for putting a front end onto a back end. And what I
mean by that is organizations usually have systems and processes that are really spreadsheet heavy and there's a lot of manual typing and very little validation. It's kind of like it's technically an application if you've got all your things all your processes running in a spreadsheet. You're just using a spreadsheet as a front end to that application. But what it actually does really really well is help add a nice front end to an application running on spreadsheets. When it comes to Chat apps, again, that feature is not out yet. But the way we'd see it is in Chat apps is it'd be a
very nice way to get you started with Google Chat apps to fail fast, to iterate fast, and by the time you've created your proof of concept and you've kind of validated your idea. That's when you've got to take the path from, okay we're going to invest a little bit more into this. We're going to upskill our team and we're going to maybe move it over to to Apps Script because it's slightly more customizable. It's slightly more extensible. But with the migration path between AppSheet and Apps Script we have migration paths for both AppSheet to Apps Script to GCP. But to make that first hop
it's kind of ironic AppSheet does have support for built-in Apps Script. So the way we position it to our our customers and say: "Hey, you're using AppSheet really well. But you know your processes are starting to kind of hit the ceiling of what AppSheet can do. What we'd recommend is
actually start fiddling around with the inbuilt Apps Script editor. You should try setting up a few functions that that help to get you where you want to be." And then once we see the client, the customer, the organization find a little bit of comfort of running Apps Script on their AppSheet platform then we say: "Okay, you've seen the power of Apps Script. Time to move everything over, or most of your things over, or maybe some of your things over." But at that point you've made your first hop. I think the one thing a lot of folks struggle from is they don't really understand which
tool they kind of pick or choose or aren't sure what decision to make. And so you're right, sometimes it's easy to make the wrong one and think that you're trapped in it. So now I love that idea of taking that approach and helping people understand it. I love what you said, by the way, that customers become comfortable in realizing that this Apps Script thing is not a big hard thing to learn. They kind of ease into it so that's a great insight. Lewis anything to add on? I know your quote-unquote you're a full stack developer. If someone asks you to work
with AppSheet what are your impressions about using a no- code tool solution. Actually, it's a brilliant tool but I would say the further you get from the metal, so to speak, the fewer options you have. So AppSheet is great for, as Wiktor saids spreadsheet based applications. And maybe sort of create, read, update, and delete sort of operations and things like that.
And there are a lot of amazing use cases for it. But as I said, it's more limited as it's more sort of abstract from the actual code itself. It just takes a bit of discretion when we do say: "Okay, could we do this in AppSheet?" It's like: "Yeah, we could do an AppSheet".
But you know the the road is not as long so to speak as App Scripts. And you can only take it so far. But as Wiktor said, it's possible to move from AppSheet to Apps Script. So there is no sort of pigeonholing when you do decide to choose AppSheet. You're not getting stuck in an AppSheet. Like it's very flexible after all. And in terms of an application's life cycle,
sometimes the application is totally fine living on AppSheet. You don't have to move over. That might overkill. Your your business, your organization might be entirely happy running a process or a system entirely on the AppSheet platform. And it does work for hundreds and thousands of organizations around the world. So we're not saying that it's only the start of your journey. It could totally be the end as well and you could be entirely happy and better for it. Let me ask you a question: you guys obviously have tons of expertise, you've actually thought about these things. If folks wanted to connect with you whether they're in Glasgow, Scotland or anywhere around
the world. What's the best way to actually engage you guys? The best way to get in touch is through our website. Go to cobry.co.uk/start- your- journey and that'll take you directly into a meeting link. And if you've got a development problem, an App Script problem, you want
a Chat app made for you, that will go directly into our um Dev teams calendar so you can be speaking face to face to meet with me veryy very quick through our website. If you don't want to go through that we're also very, very active on LinkedIn and we're all open to connecting. So you can either connect with me myself, Wiktor, or Lewis who is kind of sitting virtually beside me. Those are the two best channels to get in touch with us. I also noticed that you're hiring. You want
to shout out for what you're looking for and how you expect to see the company grow? We always have an always hiring model and what that means: we are always looking for talented people despite what it says on our on our job board. If you're a developer, if you're a marketer, if you're a salesperson and you like your vibe, you like what we do, you like the way we talk totally get in touch with us. It's an always hiring model and what that means is if we think you're a good fit and despite the they're not being a job out there we're totally open to having that conversation and giving you a space or making you a space at Cobry. Our growth plans are
high. They're very ambitious so if you do think that you're going to be a good fit and just based off of this conversation or what you see online please do get in touch no matter what you do. We love to hear from great people no matter what your position is. On your website we've noticed this um Cobry towel. Tell us what's it about and how can you get one. Oh, brilliant you found the easter egg! So if you made it this far into the video get on our website, scroll right down to the bottom of our footer, and it says "Do you want a towel" and you can click on that. There is a backstory behind it and the backstory is a long story, but long story short, we were ordering merch a while back and someone at some point clicked the towel button and got intrigued and ordered a whole bunch of towels for everyone at Cobry. We have too many towels and actually our clients love them. They think they're brilliant so if you found the easter egg, if you've made it all the way to
the end of this video go to our website, scroll all the way down to the footer, click on request the towel and you've just got to give us a good joke. If we think that your joke is good enough there may be a chance that there may be a Cobry towel coming your way. [Music] Can't hear you! So let's see if I can get a joke...here wait a second: Why qualify for a
Cobry towel if I want to go to the best beaches in Scotland? "as that the joke Charles? [Laughter]