Build super fast MVP's without programmers - Part 2


December 1, 2015

This is the second post in our “MVP’swithout programmers” series.Here’s the first post.

Here’s a screenshot of the “app” we created:

MVP with Google Docs - Part 2

I’m not gonna blame you, if you wanna stop reading now. Yes, it’s a timesheet. That bane of a consultant’s existence.

But here’s the thing: We had more fun building this banal timesheet than we’d ever expected. Hypotheses, experiments, prototypes, testing..oh my!


I’ll be the first to admit it. Until recently, every invoice we sent to our customers had an ad-hoc timesheet attached with it.

Ad-hoc timesheets. Manually prepared by each team member. Yep. Guilty as charged.

Anyways, our conscience got the better of us. It was time to set things straight. We were gonna standardize timesheets across the organization and become more professional. It was time to build an application that we could all log into, enter our hours and generate professional reports.


Aren’t there’s like hundreds of these kinds of products already out there? Were we out of our minds to invest expensive programmer hours in building YATS? [Yet Another Time Sheet]

Take a look at the following goals across our types of users:

For each consultant:

For each team of consultants (working on a certain account):

For customers:

Across the organization:

We’re yet to find an off-the-shelf solution that gives us all of those things.

Constraints. You gotta love ’em!

With stretch goals like those, the whole project was now starting to inspire our programmers.  To the point they volunteered to build this thing on evenings and weekends.

Yeah, like anyone’s gonna believe that. A timesheet with stretch goals is still a timesheet :- .

Back to ground reality. We needed someone who could learn to code fast, but also deliver working software from Day 1.

Oh, and we also needed this thing to be online, interactive, have database persistence, allow for concurrent user access, have an intuitive user interface, allow for easy extensibility and maintenance.

, you say., you say., you say.

But what if, we could do this whole thing just using Google Spreadsheets and Google Doc Scripts?

Here’s the hypotheses in more detail:

The Google Docs Community. Great, but…

Since the intention was to use Google Docs, we looked for existing “timesheet”templates in the public GDoc library.

So, what we now needed was to build an online database backed web application. Except, we had to do it, just using Google Docs and Google Apps Script.

Here’s what we came up with:

TimeIt Demo - Animated GIF

Here’s an online template of the spreadsheet.[The App Script is accessible from within the template. Checkout the instructions.]

That’s a nice prototype. What about the real app?

Once we’d got the basic infrastructure built, the rest was quite easy. We incrementally added all of the reports that we wanted also to the system. And we’re now in the process of building our financial dashboard - that connects our quarterly budgets, revenue targets, accrued revenue and projected revenue all in one place.

And you guessed it - all with just Google Docs.

The funny thing we discovered was this: Piggybacking on Google’s massive infrastructure actually makes more sense in more situations that you’d expect.

We’ve now been using our “prototype” timesheet for over 3 months now - and by the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like we’d want to move to anything else, any time soon. It works just fine.

So there’s no downsides at all?

Of course, there are trade-offs. That is, if you think of them as tradeoffs. For example, if you’re averse to keeping the timesheet data across the company open for everyone - then, yeah, this isn’t for you.

If you’re paranoid about people making stupid mistakes - by say accidentally deleting important data, then, yeah, this isn’t for you. No, scratch that. This is still for you. Use the protect sheet feature to avoid accidental updates by your team.


So, what did we learn from this experience?

Your Turn

What kinds of MVP experiments have you been trying out? Would love to hear your stories in the comments below :).