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Christina Morales

Christina Morales
Christina is a contributing writer for AppSheet. Her passion for writing is rooted in being inspired and challenged. In 2009, her love of creating content combined with her fascination with the world of technology and since then she has had the privilege of writing for a vast array of tech companies.

Recent Posts

10 Excel Templates for Simplifying Your Life

“Life in the early 21st century wasn’t supposed to be so hectic. In a 1930 essay, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour work week by 2030, when we’d all have time to enjoy ‘the hour and the day virtuously and well,’” reports Brigid Schulte in The Washington Post. Does this sound anything like your life in 2016? No? Well, it doesn’t reflect the life of anyone I know, either. While the goal of technology was to make life more efficient, somehow the opposite has happened since we seem to be working harder than ever with the convenience of the Internet and the portability of handheld devices. However, here are some free, downloadable Excel templates that will prove that technology CAN simplify your life.   Interested in moving beyond spreadsheets to mobile apps? Check out our a wide variety of sample apps and copy one for yourself! Each app can be linked to your Excel spreadsheet, so the data syncs simultaneously Apps are compatible with Google Sheets/Forms, Excel on DropBox, Box, Office 365, OneDrive, SmartSheet, Salesforce, SQL, and more. You can customize each app with your own data sets and special features like barcode scanning, image capture, GPS/maps, and more.   1. Budgeting This is obviously the most popular spreadsheet because we all need to keep track of our income and spending. While many banks, credit card companies, and credit unions provide some program which can break your spending into categories, creating your own spreadsheet with a set budget can ensure that you are living within your means.  Here's an example of a corporate media budget spreadsheet. You can easily change around the columns and numbers to fit your everyday lifestyle.  From there, you can use AppSheet's platform to turn your budget spreadsheet into a budget app in minutes!  2.  Travel It seems terribly ironic that so much stress can go into planning a restful vacation and that’s why a spreadsheet can be one of your favorite tools. From planning your budget to creating your packing list to setting a daily itinerary to see the sites, all of your information can be contained in one place (and you won’t even forget to bring your toothbrush). If you’re looking for an itinerary template, this is a great starting point because it includes information you didn’t even know you should have as you prepare for a trip. It provides columns for packing lists, trip schedule, flight schedules, and travel dates, but did you also consider listing blood types for you and your companions or emergency contact numbers? Me either! 3. Health & Fitness Diet and exercise are important for your well-being and yet keeping track of calorie intake or weight loss can seem like just another thing to do. A spreadsheet can make this unpleasant task easy, especially since it can do all of the calculations for you. Excel Templates has a great calculator so you know exactly how many calories your body requires based on your personal specifications. Want to keep track of the calories you’re burning while exercising? You can download a template here which also provides graphs to display weight progress and daily habits. There are also a variety of weight tracking charts like this one so that you can monitor your progress. 4. Chore Charts Let’s face it: if your kids did their chores, then you could stop doing them. That would definitely simplify your life. I chose this chart not because of its style or contents, but because it ties in an allowance gauge to also teach money management skills. It’s a great starting point for you to customize a spreadsheet that will work for your family dynamics. 5. Medication Log There are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers which means that if you aren’t one, than you just may be caring for one. As we tend to the aging members of our population, adhering to a complicated medication list becomes an important job. This website gives detailed instructions on how to use a medication log such as when to take the medication, what the pill looks like, what ailment it addresses, dosage, refill number, and other vital information. 6. Meal Planner Meal planning website Gathered Table found that if you plan your dinners ahead of time, you could save 3 hours and $50 or more per week (plus you’ll have less stress, make fewer trips to the grocery store, and you’ll eat much healthier!). To make planning easier, try this downloadable spreadsheet from Vertex42 to decide on your main dish, sides, and to create your grocery list for the week. 7. Project/Event Template From weddings to birthday parties to remodeling projects, we all need a tool that keeps us on track to complete an intricate job. This spreadsheet helps you to divide your big project into bite-sized pieces so that you can create mini-deadlines to guarantee that everything gets done on or ahead of schedule. For example, if you are planning your wedding you can set deadlines starting a year from your projected wedding date; 12 months out you’ll need to book a venue, at six months you’ll need to order bridesmaids’ dresses, three months before the wedding you’ll order your cake, at two months it’s time to experiment with hairstyles, etc. If you want to turn your project management spreadsheet into an app, which can be used by multiple users, here is an easy sample app to start with. 8. Calendars Life gets complicated, regardless if you have multiple kids or multiple business appointments. On WinCalendar you can download a variety of calendars with different formats from weekly to monthly versions. This is perfect for reminding yourself of anniversary dates or birthdays. Or for the professional, this is a helpful tool for scheduling meetings with details as to time, place, and materials that you need to bring. You won’t ever worry about forgetting tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment or picking up your kid from baseball practice when your schedule is at your fingertips. Bonus for Marketers: Blog Calendar Excel Template 9. To-do List/Project Management Maybe a calendar isn’t the right format for you; you may have a list of things to do without definitive dates that they need to be completed by. Furthermore, you may have a work project that involves several people and you need to monitor what stage of progress each member is at. Try this shared AppSheet template to make certain that everyone is on the same page. You can make a job list, report on the status of progress being made, address who is responsible for each task, and include any notes that need to be shared. You can even turn the spreadsheet directly into an app! Also, check out one of our most popular blogs to learn how you can build a smart to-do list in 10 minutes! 10. Gift Lists Santa’s not the only one who has to make a list and check it twice. For the past five years I’ve made an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the 30+ family members, teachers, friends, and co-workers that I need to buy presents for. This list helps me to stay on budget, keep track of gift receipts, and prevent repeat gifts from previous years. I also start shopping in September so that my bank account doesn’t get hit all at once and I can scour the sales to get the best items and deals. (Okay, I just may be a tad OCD.) This list also works great for year-round birthday present giving.    Starting a spreadsheet from scratch is arduous. These templates will set you up for success.You'll also get a head start on building a powerful mobile app from your spreadsheet data.  In the end you’ll have less stress, frustration, and of course, more time! Click here for more free excel templates! This article has TimeSheet, Customer List Excel, Project Management Excel, Blog Calendar, and Profit and Loss Excel. Check out what apps AppSheet customers in different industries and roles have created. For more handy tips on how to better manage your life and work, learn how to make your own app or visit Features, Tips & Webinars.

5 Reasons Why You Must Have Your Own Business Apps

Making your own business apps may have crossed your mind but the expense, effort and not knowing where to begin may have quickly doused that dream. However, the benefits of a customized app and the convenience of a  mobile app maker have taken any negative arguments off the table. Here are five reasons why you need to have your own apps: Customer Convenience - It’s common knowledge that keeping a returning customer happy is much more cost effective than trying to acquire new customers. With an app, the convenience and accessibility of service can greatly improve customer satisfaction. For example, if you own a restaurant you may want to create an app that has a listing of your menu items, a “Find Me” tool that provides a Google Map, daily specials, tracks loyalty incentives or provides a text or phone number link to place an order. If a customer is on the go they would be able to place their order with the app and swing by the restaurant to pick it up on their way home. Rise Above the Competition - According to a report by marketing intelligence agency Mintel, “Americans not only use the internet to stay connected to work, family and friends, but 69 percent seek out advice and opinions on goods and services before purchasing.” Furthermore, B2B research firm Clutch found in a recent survey that only 54 percent of small businesses have a website. Here’s where the dichotomy lies: most people are researching products and services online but a surprising 44 percent of small businesses don’t have a website. Now what does this have to do with an app? Well, there is even a greater discrepancy in this category: consumers spend 85 percent of their time on their smartphones using apps but just a fraction of small businesses have one.   What does this mean for small businesses? Let’s say you own a boutique that caters to teen girls (and we know how they love their iPhones). Imagine making a catalog app where you can meet them where they’re at by sharing new products, fashion tips, celebrity sightings showing what’s trending, highlighting customers wearing your clothes and sending alerts for sales and events. If a large percentage of your competition is neglecting using a website and a majority of your rivals don’t implement an app, then you have a much better chance of appealing to a wider market and securing loyal, interactive customers. Build Your Branding - “A mobile app is like a blank billboard sign. You can do what you want with it; you can make it stylish, hip, functional, shocking, or informative. But what you really want to do is create an app that has features your customers will love, while at the same time is well branded and beautifully designed,” explains Melanie Haselmayr on Forbes. “The more often you can get customers involved with your app, the sooner they will be inclined to buy your product and/or service.” The potential that you have with your own app is limitless. It goes beyond age, gender, location and financial earnings. It is a chameleon that conforms to your needs and voice. Empowered Workforce - Happy workers equal happy customers and the convenience and scalability of apps allow employees to be more successful at their jobs. “Over 50% of chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech firms are using mobile apps to change their business practices, while 58% of construction, mining and oil companies are doing the same. Logistics-centric companies are integrating mobile apps to automate existing processes, with 50% of people saying that mobile first is now the preferred option,” found Red Hat’s Mobile Maturity Survey 2015. Even if your customers aren’t hands-on with your app, they will definitely feel the positive impact it has on your business practices. From locating inventory not found in the front of the store to placing orders sent in from a mobile workforce app, an app allows your workers to interact with customers without being tied to a checkout counter or bulky computer. Guaranteed ROI Customized apps used to be expensive, time consuming and complicated. Now free app builders allow you to create your own customized app from a simple Excel spreadsheet. Without the high cost of a developer or the huge time investment making an app from scratch using Java or Visual Studio, you can create an app for your specific needs in as little as half an hour. With minimal investment, you have a greater chance for a profitable return. If your results aren’t as successful as you had hoped, you can easily make changes to allow for employee or customer suggestions and requests. A business app can help you to grow your business and help your employees to become more efficient with minimal time and financial investment. With all of the benefits of an app, why not try one out today?

Spreadsheets and Beer: A Better Match Than You’d Think

What was once a necessity centuries ago is now one of the hottest trends to sweep the nation. From microbrews to barrel aging experiments to “hard” soda flavors, beer has become a popular hobby for the home brewer and a serious obsession for beer club members. This trend is causing an interesting intersection in modernity where tradition and technology are combining to create a new generation of lager enthusiasts. Read about how spreadsheets and apps contributed to this group's passion of beer.  Managing the Chicago Beer Club needs lots of data tracking Like many entrepreneurs, Phil Renda, Founder and President of the Chicago Beer Club, found himself in a difficult predicament: he loved beer and wanted to gather like-minded individuals who shared his interest, but the bookkeeping and data tracking quickly became a complicated hassle. In the early stages of the club, Renda would hold meetings about every two weeks with ten club members who would pay monthly dues. Each member would bring bottles of beer to share with the group which was then paid for by the dues. However, not everyone could make it to each meeting and those who couldn’t make it felt like they were wasting their money on beer they didn’t drink. Renda knew that there had to be a better way to track who was attending the tastings and how to monitor how much each member was spending trying the new beers. “We thought, ‘Why is this not working?’ It was just too complicated and the level of effort was too much.” Collecting data is at the core of the beer Club. Ok, beer first and collecting data second When Renda found AppSheet, he was able to quickly create an app that would follow a pay-as-you-go model. Members and guests bring local, hard to get beers and the information is input into the app. At the end of the evening, the group tracks what each person drank so that the cost can be divided evenly. Before only members could attend and they paid a flat monthly fee. With their customized mobile app, they can track if members have a credit or balance to be cleared, they can add guests per meeting and charge accordingly, and if a member is unable to attend, they can use their credit for future tastings. Renda explains that, “An app really opened things up and provided flexibility for members to purchase as it fits their life... It has made the club more fair and we are now able to bring guests in a la carte without membership dues.” Additionally, the Chicago Beer Club has been able to sync their app to the popular beer-focused social media platform Untappd. They share what they’re drinking, add reviews and have a running list of the unique lagers that have been sampled. Now you may be thinking that you don’t need an app like this in your work or personal life. However, here’s the great thing about Chicago Beer Club: they had a problem and they found a solution to fit their specific situation. Every business is unique and every project has its own requirements. When you can build your own app, you are only limited by your imagination. What common problem would you fix if you could make your own app?

4 Ways to Cut IT Costs by Making Your Own Apps

Regardless if your IT department is in-house or outsourced, technology is a vital part of any modern day business. If your website, computer network or apps go awry, your business will instantly come to a standstill. It’s no wonder that in a recent survey involving 1,121 IT pros across various sectors, it was reported that the average IT budget was $253,389. The average IT spending per employee ranged from $2,770 for small businesses with 19 or fewer employees to $698 for large companies with over 500 employees (average $1,526). As a business owner or manager, you know what a big investment good tech support is, but are there ways to decrease this large expense? After all, you may be restructuring your budget for the New Year with considerations like determining where money is possibly being wasted and if there are lower cost options for expensive services. Did you know that spreadsheet-based apps can help you to lower IT costs? 1. IT Efficiency A computer will crash. Programs will have bugs in them. There’s a good chance your network may get hacked. But like many things in life, time is money and time wasted is money wasted. An IT ticketing and issue tracking system app ensures that there is a protocol in place for the requests coming in and that the most urgent problems can rise to the forefront of IT’s attention. When a mobile form is constructed with the required information fields listed, excess emails or texts are eliminated and communication becomes more efficient. In fact, research from strategic advisory service Hackett Group showed that “the most efficiently run IT departments spend 21% less per user than typical companies and rely on 8% fewer staff.” 2. Track IT Expenses When projects are tracked and segmented, it makes finding those critical budget leaks much easier. The same thing applies to your IT department. Creating an app that tracks the time spent on specific assignments can help to pinpoint the inefficiencies in your network or program. For example, if a programmer keeps getting contacted by your employees to fix the same problem over and over, maybe it’s time to invest in new, updated software to save on overall long-term IT costs. 3. IT Manual Many times your IT department is probably overburdened with the same basic questions: Why can’t I connect to the Internet? Why is my computer running so slow? How do I do ____________ function? How do I backup my files in the cloud? While it may take a few hours to write answers to the most common questions, it can save you immeasurable time and money in the end by using a simple app creator to create an IT manual. You can list the issues by topic and then fill in step-by-step actions to take with screenshots to make the process easier. See AppSheet’s New Employee Set Up app as a good place to start. 4. Low Cost Customized Apps (Without an IT Department) According to Calcote Laramie, professional business advisor, these are the average costs to make an iOS or Android App from the top app development companies in the world: Hyperlink Infosystem: $7,000 to $30,000 Fueled: $100,000 to $300,000 Dom & Tom: $80,000 to $150,000 Softway Solutions: $100,000 to $250,000 Plastic mobile: $110,000 to $300,000 For just a fraction of these costs, anyone on your staff can create a customized app for the variety of purposes that your company needs. App builders are low cost, simplified and instead of complicated wire frames and coding, they can be uploaded using common cloud platform databases. Cutting costs doesn’t mean cutting functionality, quality or performance. Implementing the right apps can help you to manage your company, your budget, and your progress for the New Year.

How to Build an App to Manage Your Event

From conferences, open houses and fundraisers to weddings, birthday parties, and holiday get togethers, events take a ton of planning. You may be the event coordinator for your organization or you just throw a killer family gathering, but you still need to stay on budget, keep to a timeline, order decorations, and keep track of so much more. An app maker can help you to create stellar events while minimizing stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Timelines and To-Do Lists Making a timeline is a simple but detailed process. Set the date and work backwards on an excel spreadsheet inputting the tasks that need to be completed. From there you can go step-by-step as to when to meet with the caterer and facilities manager, the drop date for invitations, when materials need to be dropped off and picked up from the printers, etc. This also helps you to create a to-do list for the many parts of this massive machine. The same basic principle works for the day of event timeline; determine when the facility opens, when the event should finish, and fill in the gaps with vendor arrival times, volunteer arrival times, and when the doors open. The event itself should also have a specific timeline including program opening remarks, your video presentation, guest speaker’s address, donor acknowledgements and anything else on the program. This will keep you on target for the duration of the event and will keep things moving to prevent your guests from being bored. “When you decide to have an event, everything matters. From program content and lighting to transportation and parking — everything counts. And your audience will attribute everything to you and…your brand.  Making a list will ensure you don’t overlook things,” recommends marketing coordinator Jamillah Warner. Budget A mobile app can help you to stay on budget as you shop around town to meet with a florist, get quotes on programs, menus or posters, pick out decor, or taste test the caterer’s delectables. A calculator add- on can assist you to stay within your budget if one area goes over and you need to deduct funds from another category. Idea List Between Pinterest, Etsy, and tons of other decorating sites, there is unlimited inspiration available. Keep your favorite ideas all in one place by uploading pictures to your customized app. This can also be helpful for your set-up committee; showing them examples of how tables should be set or how the decorations should be assembled can take more tasks off of your to-do list. Contacts and Committees Lists Many times it takes an army to put on a large event and a contact directory app can be priceless. You can have volunteer lists broken down by job and include contact information including the aforementioned caterers, florists, printers, rental companies, guest speaker, facilities manager, AV company... and you’ll want them all to be on the same page. “Pre-planning is everything, so consider having a meeting with all of your vendors prior to your event so you can hash out every small detail before it’s go-time.  It’s the perfect opportunity to talk over a timeline and get everyone on the same page,” suggests Festivities Catering.  You’ll want these all in one app location the day of the event in case a vendor doesn’t show up on time, if your guest list changes, or for any potential problems that may (and usually do) arise. Email Notifications This app is perfect for large teams where the event planner has to keep track of various members in charge of different jobs at off site locations. With a simple form, you can request updates on whether the job was completed, when it was completed, if there are any questions or comments, time spent, money spent, or any other specific details that the team needs to track. Lead Tracking The primary purpose of most of these types of events is to meet new potential clients or donors, grab their information, and make a great impression. With the right apps already on your phone you can add contact information, personal notes, products or services they want more info on, secure a future meeting date, or process a  donation (for nonprofits) via an order capture feature.  Before you even attend your event, you should have a plan in place on how you want to follow-up with the attendees. This will guide you on capturing the right information and photos to continue the relationship. Randy Hawthorne, publisher and executive director for Nonprofit Hub advises, “Long before your event even comes around, you’ll want to develop a follow-up plan that allows you to connect with every attendee, thanking them for coming and giving them another opportunity for engagement. Your plan could include several components, including follow-up calls, handwritten thank-yous, an email blast, posting event pictures on your social media pages or highlighting an event video on your website. Whatever you do, be sure to stay in touch with the people you just hosted. Leverage the wave of interest and excitement about your organization as much as possible.” Events take an immense investment in time, planning and manpower, but staying organized and creating a detailed strategy with customized apps can help you to plan a successful, memorable, and enjoyable event.

How Safe is the Internet Cloud for My Business App

What exactly is the Internet cloud? We all use it, our businesses depend on it, and our apps are stored on it. But here’s the thing: we’ve also heard about hackers stealing valuable information off the Internet or of the incident where a laptop is stolen and all of the information on it was breached. Since SaaS services and cloud-based applications are such an important part of both our business and social lives, here are some important facts that you should know. First of all, the Internet and the cloud are basically the same thing. You pretty much don’t use one without using the other. For example, let’s say you tap into Google’s variety of services like Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google+, and Hangouts. All of these tools are accessed on the Internet and stored in the cloud. The reason this technological advancement has revolutionized the way we do business is because: a) it eliminates the cost of expensive hardware, b) small businesses don’t need a tech department when implementing a cloud platform, c) it provides mobility when the documents are accessible from any device, and d) there are limitless possibilities if you consider the millions of app choices available for both business and leisure. However, many instances have been reported about hackers breaking into mega corporations and even into government servers to steal valuable information. Let’s face it, if Target, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Sony, and Ebay were all victims within last couple of years with all of billion dollar tech support, is your information just as vulnerable? Actually, no. There are many precautions that you can take to ensure that your information is safe and here are a few: Secure Your Hardware   If you lose your phone or mobile device, this could mean that the information that you access can easily be obtained. Many times we have password reminders in place or passwords that can be simply cracked leaving all of that customer information wide open. Many people also use the same password for multiple accounts because it’s quite a feat to remember one for every website we use. To make sure your hardware is safe, educate your employees on protecting data, remove passwords that are saved, and make passwords longer with more symbols or caps in it. Also, research to see if your smartphone provider has “remote wipe” capabilities which erases data on stolen or lost devices. Updated Software Hackers are smart and are constantly finding new ways to break into user accounts. Fortunately, software and cloud platform providers hire vast teams of developers to protect against this. George Cox advises on The Spectrum to, “Update your operating system and other software frequently, if not automatically. This keeps hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in outdated programs. For extra protection, enable Microsoft product updates so that the Office Suite will be updated at the same time. Consider retiring particularly susceptible software such as old versions of Java or Flash.” Private vs. Public vs. Hybrid Depending on your industry and the sensitivity of your information, you can choose the type of cloud that you use. Public clouds include Google, DropBox, Microsoft Azure, or Apple’s iCloud. These are maintained by a PaaS company and provide shared clouds for general information. For sensitive data, a private cloud is more expensive since it is customized for your business and serves only your company. This obviously requires tech support beyond what a public cloud offers. Finally, hybrid clouds offer the best of both worlds. You get the the accessibility and efficiency of the public cloud with the security of a private cloud. Encryption The more roadblocks you have in your software the harder it is to crack, so encryption is a vital part of cloud protection. For even more security, there are SaaS companies that provide that extra measure of insurance to guard your data. “There are some cloud services that provide local encryption and decryption of your files in addition to storage and backup. It means that the service takes care of both encrypting your files on your own computer and storing them safely on the cloud,” explains Victoria Ivey on CIO.com. Precautions for App Tools We’ve all heard about the risks of tapping into public WiFi accounts and how thieves can steal credit information just by scanning a card in passing. While many businesses use app tools such as credit card payments or GPS maps, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. “Organizations should adapt an approach of risk-aware transaction execution that restricts client-side functionality based on policies that consider mobile risk factors such as device security attributes, user location, and the security of the network connection, among others,” reports Yishay Yovel on Security Intelligence.   Overall, most data and mobile apps are quite safe in the cloud because they implement trusted cloud platforms whose reputations rely on being secure. The capabilities far outweigh the risks if you apply these added precautions.

What Do the Best Apps Have in Common?

The great thing about so many apps being out on the market is that you can learn from the many who have gone before you. It’s like the wheel has been invented and you just need to focus on customizing it to make it go faster, run smoother, and improve it so you can arrive at your specific goal. With free apps builders, you can certainly see what other apps are offering and take their examples to make your own personalized tool. Consider these features that popular apps have in common to make the best app for your specific needs. 1. Work In Shorthand Apps are used on mobile devices which are not convenient for lengthy data inputting. Evernote is one great example to follow; when inspiration hits and you want to take a picture or if you’re running errands and need to make a quick list, you can easily capture these thoughts and move on to your next task. Premade checklists, abbreviations, yes or no surveys, and easy-to-use buttons make apps quick, easy and more likely to be utilized. 2. Team Communication If no man is an island, then apps are the cruise liners that connect your workforce. “When the internal forces of a business are working toward communicating the same message to vendors, suppliers and customers, good communication can also lead to a boost in sales for the business,” observes Kristie Lorette in the Houston Chronicle.  “Essentially, good communication creates a win-win situation. The customers who can benefit from the company receive the messages they need to make them aware of the company and to make a purchase, which in turn boosts the sales of the company.” Apps that keeps employees and management connected know the right questions to ask, the appropriate answers to give and keep the team well-informed to provide optimal customer experience. Well-known project-management app Basecamp is a great example of opening the lines of communication so that projects stay on time. 3. Organization Your businesses’ future relies on being organized. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) is a necessary task that can be overwhelming and time-consuming. If you are creating a lead tracking app, it’s important to keep all of your information in one place. Streak allows you to keep track of where you are in your business relationship rather than organizing customers by contact name. The best apps keep your information organized, logical, and easy to interpret for group accessibility. 4. Simplicity “I want to read directions,” said no one ever. This is especially true when it comes to apps. Afterall, mobile apps were built for speed, mobility, and simplicity. Facebook’s Messenger app was one of the top apps of 2016 with more than 136 million active monthly users. YouTube came in at a whopping 134 million. Chances are, you have used one of these apps and found they were self-explanatory. The best apps are user-friendly and ready to go. 5. Synchronization Every business or even individual accesses a variety of technology platforms each day. From social media to emails to spreadsheets, we are inundated with information. Great apps work with the tools that we already use and that have proven their worth. AppSheet is a great example. You can import the spreadsheets you already use with software from Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and more to create customized apps to manage your mobile employees. Like any product, the best apps fill a need and do it well. The best part about mobile app makers is that you can create your own apps. No one knows your needs like you do and no one knows how to solve them like you can. Seeing what’s available and incorporating the most useful tools can guide you as you create your perfect app.

3 Excel Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your Own App

What business in the past 20 years hasn’t used Excel? In fact, CIO reports that Microsoft Office (which includes Excel) can be found on some 450 million desktops today. From timesheets to invoices to inventory lists, Excel has been a cornerstone in modern commerce. Excel even permeates our personal lives to organize budgets, track Christmas present lists, and to ensure that we don’t forget a single item when we pack for vacation. Excel spreadsheets are also being used to help non-developers make their own customized business apps. However, there are some things to consider when making your own Excel spreadsheet app; follow these three tips to avoid some of the most common mistakes. 1. Label. And Label Well.  Nothing can get a point across as well as a colorful visual and incorporating the rights charts into a sales presentation can win over potential customers. On the other hand, one that is confusing or misrepresents the facts can negate your whole presentation. If you are making charts for your sales team to use out in the field, it is crucial that they understand every aspect of the chart and the message that you are trying to communicate.  Additionally, field titles are usually written in a type of shorthand since space is limited. Do your employees have a thorough understanding of the information that is required of them? For example, if you have a mobile sales team and you want to track how many customers they are seeing per day and you have the field labeled as “Customers per day”, does this mean individual visits or people seen? One representative may record “1” as in 1 visit while another employee inputs “2” since he shared his presentation with two managers in the same visit. These numbers can greatly impact your data analysis concerning employee evaluations and expectations. 2. Accuracy is Key Stuart Leung of Salesforce reported that, “Various studies over the past few years report that 88 percent of all spreadsheets have ‘significant’ errors in them. Even the most carefully crafted spreadsheets contain errors in 1 percent or more of all formula cells. A majority of errors reported were caused by human error—meaning they could have been completely avoidable mistakes.” So maybe 1 percent doesn’t seem like much… yet. “Illustrating the power of pricing, a study of the Global 1200 found that if companies raised prices by just 1%, their average operating profits would increase by 11%,” explains leading pricing expert Rafi Mohammed. “Using a 1% increase in price, some companies would see even more growth in percentage of profit: Sears, 155%; McKesson, 100%, Tyson, 81%, Land O'Lakes, 58%, Whirlpool, 35%.” Pertaining to your business app, how much would 1 percent amount to in overtime costs, unpaid accounts receivables, or mispricing your mobile catalog products? Taking the time to accurately input these figures could save you thousands of dollars over the fiscal year. 3.  Stay Organized With Excel users, many times they fall into two categories: those who create one spreadsheet with a ton of information on it versus those who create a variety of pages with limited content. For apps, it works much better if you focus on joining the second group. “As a general rule, most complex workbooks could be simplified by moving each major function or display to a new worksheet in the workbook,” suggests Charley Kyd on ExcelUser.com. “To make each major function easier to find in your workbook, assign each tab of your workbook a relevant name. To do so, double-click on a tab to highlight its original text; then enter your new text.” When creating an app, the more complex your structure is, the more difficult it is to translate it into a working mobile app. This process works best when you have an orderly table in your main (first) worksheet. Your columns should be clear and include five or more rows of data before you publish. Your table should also have a defined set of columns and corresponding headers. (Unlike the example below!)   Mobile app platforms using Excel spreadsheets have made it easier than ever to create and utilize your own customized app. However, your app is only as good as the accuracy and usability of the information that you put into it. Avoiding these simple mistakes can save you time, money, and a ton of frustration.

How Mobile Apps Are Helping to Keep DeKalb, Georgia Beautiful

There are some businesses that work behind the scenes and are vital to the well-being of a community. If the employees fail to show up for the week or if the department closes down, the city would greatly feel the absence of their contributions. The Beautification Department of DeKalb County Government is one such organization that ensures that suburban Atlanta continues to look great. Gordon Burkette, Manager of Keep DeKalb Beautiful, has created his own mobile apps to aid his team to complete the countless tasks that make these various clean-up projects possible. Managing Keep DeKalb Beautiful is no easy task. Gordon oversees just under 100 employees who maintain the sides of about 200 roads and 400 lots. On any given day, their specific jobs may include beautification projects, mowing lawns, litter abatement, special events, community clean ups and logistic activities. With so many moving parts, it can be a monumental undertaking to make sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be doing what they were sent to do. One specific project came up in which Gordon had to oversee the distribution of roll carts (the containers used in residential garbage collections) to 175,000 single family households. While that in itself seems overwhelming, each household was given the choice of four different sized garbage containers and two recycling containers. This is when Gordon decided that an app maker was required to track all of the pickups and deliveries of the roll carts.  “I created an app that divided the county into five areas. Each request in the program was assigned to an area.  Each delivery truck had a separate app on their phone (one app for each delivery area based on a master app).  From the map or list of deliveries, the current day’s work would turn green.  Additional containers could be delivered anytime, so they remained green every day,” Gordon explains. “Based on the area apps each driver would build their truck for the next day.  The master app was used to input deliveries for each area app and to monitor productivity by area app. Using this process more than tripled daily deliveries.” Like many managers, Gordon formerly used a spreadsheet and handwritten notes to do his job. Now that he has been using AppSheet for over a year, he has been able to make his own apps for the variety of projects that he is responsible for. From changing road signs to monitoring the conditions of bus stops, he is discovering new ways to communicate efficiently with his mobile employees while accessing additional app tools. “When a field supervisor sees a dirty [bus stop] shelter, they take a picture of it which captures the time and location. They then push a button to say if the location is dirty and if trash receptacle is full. When the supervisor hits save it sends an automated email with a picture and description of the shelter to the transit authority for servicing.” Gordon and his team have seen great progress with the way their company is managed through the convenience of an app maker and the diligence and ingenuity of Gordon. Not only are they able to make more timely decisions, but it has, “changed the way we communicate to our customers (automated messages to keep them informed of progress on their requests), and it’s easier to assign work, track progress and collect key data,” states Gordon. “We will be expanding our use of the program into the coming year.  Everyday we have new and better ideas.”

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